Duncan James was "really scared" to come out as gay in the early days of Blue.
The 44-year-old pop star shot to fame in 2001 alongside Antony Costa, 41, Simon Webbe, 43, and Lee Ryan, 39, as part of the chart-topping boyband but admitted he hid his sexuality during their heyday because they had a "predominantly female" fanbase and he was reluctant to let anyone down.
Speaking exclusively to BANG Showbiz, he said: "I think going back to 20 years ago when I was secretly in the closet and at the height of my career with Blue, I was really frightened and really scared because we had a predominantly female audience so I didn’t wanna let the boys down, I didn’t wanna let the record company down. I think I just didn’t wanna let anybody down and get gay-bashed. In the 1970s and 80s, there were awful horrible stories of gays getting queer-bashed and even 20 years ago when I was in the closet I was just worried about all these things. I put my own mental health on the back burner because I didn’t want to think about it.
"I wanted to put my career first, my bandmates, and my family first. I just thought ‘Well I can deal with my sexuality myself’ But by suppressing it, I really built up a lot of issues and I couldn’t even speak to the boys about it."
The ''One Love' hitmaker - who has been in a relationship with Rodrigo Reis, 28, since 2021 - went on to add that while he is "really happy" these days, he wishes he was "brave enough" to come out because he "didn't enjoy" the success they were having but believes the group's latest outing will give him the opportunity to feel "comfortable" in his own skin.
He said: "But fast forward 20 years, I’m out and proud and I’ve got a boyfriend and I’m really happy. I just wish I’d had the ability to be brave enough to come out earlier. I would have enjoyed Blue the first time around a lot more than I did I was living in fear and I was waking up every day feeling frightened and scared so it made me not necessarily enjoy it. This time I don’t wake up in the morning with a dark cloud or a worry over me. I wake up feeling happy and excited to go to work.
"Getting on stage with the boys and I don’t have to pretend somebody I’m not or act that I’m a straight guy who loves girls. I don’t have to have that pretence anymore that I thought to for many years. For me, it’s come full circle. I can be really comfortable in my own skin and that’s something I haven’t been able to do with Blue for a really long time. This is an opportunity for me to be my authentic self and travel the world and be on stage without having to be fake. "
Blue’s new album ‘Heart and Soul' is out now and they tour the UK in December.